I had the opportunity to spend some time in Keynote for iCloud last week. We were editing a Keynote file with many people and needed to stay on top of versions. Keynote for iCloud was the logical solution.

It is amazing to see how web apps have evolved. After a relatively long wait time to upload/open the presentation in the browser, it is almost as snappy as if you are working on a desktop app. Browsing through slides, dragging and dropping of images, all great.

The issue is that there are a few features missing compared to the desktop version that are really important to me:

  • Distributing objects horizontally and vertically. The one biggest mistake people make in slide design is incorrect alignment of objects on the slide. Keynote for iCloud has the "soft guides" that pop up when you drag an object, but as soon as you have to deal with a lot of boxes, there is no way to line things up properly. A similar problem happens in resizing table columns and rows (but you could argue that this is a power user feature that not many users will miss).
  • Manipulating themes, especially colours. You can't set them in Keynote for iCloud, your only choice is to pick a template when creating a new deck. When uploading an existing slide deck, the theme colours get copied, but only for shapes. In tables they do not appear. And in data charts you cannot set them either. 

A smaller issue is that an animation that my client created in the desktop version did not play in iCloud presentation mode. I am not a big fan of animations in presentations so in theory this is not a big deal. But, differences in PLAY mode can create unexpected surprises when you deliver an important pitch and all of a sudden your content is displayed differently in the heat of the discussion.

I suspect that Apple had to make decisions what features to include with the mobile version of iCloud in mind. But these 2 shortcomings forced me to take down the Keynote deck into the desktop version, warn my client not to touch the file, and upload it again after I was finished.

Two lessons here:

  1. Slide design software still does not get what are the key features needed for layman designers to make decent slides. (Which is why I created my presentation app Slidemagic which is all about grids and alignment)
  2. Users are demanding. If you offer a product under one brand, users expect all features that they have gotten used to, to appear on all platforms. I experience this myself with users who view my presentation app SlideMagic as an extension of PowerPoint and complain where the pie charts are.

Keynote for iCloud is not there yet, but it is getting close.

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